MLB players team up, offer kids millions of meals

April 16th, 2020

ARLINGTON -- Children’s hunger has become a dire situation, and an initiative by Major League Baseball to address it now during the pandemic came about after a chance encounter between Cardinals pitcher and country music superstar Garth Brooks on social media.

Brooks is well-known for his love of baseball. More importantly, Brooks and Wainwright have a passion for addressing children’s hunger. Both have created charitable-support organizations to address that need.

Brooks was spending a week in Spring Training with the Pirates last year when Wainwright, who founded the Big League Impact in 2013, tried to enlist his help in getting involved in the St. Louis area.

“Adam just threw it out there just like he does with some people,” said Rangers pitcher , who is Wainwright’s vice president for the Big League Impact. “He throws out some ideas and sees if it sticks. He dreams pretty big.”

This idea hit home. Brooks founded the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation in 1999 to help charities focused on children’s health and education. It began with 67 Major Leaguers helping out and has since involved over 5,000 professional athletes in the past 21 years.

Brooks asked Wainwright, “Hey, Adam, what if we did something in every big league city?”

There are more than 20 million children in the United States and Canada who rely on free or reduced-priced school meals every day. Those meals are no longer available everywhere with schools shut down.

The Home Plate Project, supported by all 30 MLB clubs and over 50 players, has raised nearly $1 million to provide over four million meals to support childhood hunger prevention.

“We were excited to partner again later this year, but the pandemic the world faces during this time has called for us to act now,” Wainwright said. “Big leaguers from every MLB team felt led to jump in with us so we can help feed kids right now when they need it most in their cities. We are grateful for the opportunity to help fill their needs in this most crucial time with this great project.”

The need is urgent. The North Texas Food Bank was set up to distribute food to 3,000 people at Fair Park in Dallas on Thursday alone.

“Food insecurity, food poverty and food deficits are everywhere,” Gibson said. “So it’s definitely no surprise in this time, food pantries everywhere are lined up out the door. It has a family impact, not just kids. If we can have a little bit of relief during this tough time, where your kids are eating and feeling good, it does a lot for their psyche.”

All-Stars like , and are among the players who have contributed to the endeavor.

“We at Teammates are honored to be partnering with Adam and Kyle and the heroes of MLB for another year and another Home Plate Project,” Brooks said. “Last year’s impact was so great, and this year’s will be even better. I’m really proud of the players who are participating in this project now, when it’s needed most. It’s a joy and a privilege to be part of the healing.”

The goal last year for the Home Plate Project was to get two players from each of the 30 teams to donate $5,000 each. Brooks then pledged to triple the amount so that a total of $900,000 was raised to fight children’s hunger.

They were planning to do it again this year, but the drive wasn’t expected to be finished until fall. However, with the ongoing pandemic, Wainwright and Gibson were asked by MLB to accelerate the timetable.

They started spreading the word about a month ago, calling teammates and having them pass along the message throughout the league. Players from every team responded, and in all, $937,100 was raised on short notice.

“We hit some roadblocks early on with players who weren’t able to do it,” Gibson said. “Then the floodgates opened up a couple of weeks ago. ... Guys really started to step up big time. That can be a tricky phone call to make when nobody is getting paid.

“We knew it was going to be challenging. But as we started to call around and players started to say yes, it was pretty clear we had a lot of guys interested in filling this need and helping these kids.”

The money will be passed along to food pantries, school districts and other non-profit organizations dedicated to addressing children’s hunger.

“Major League Baseball commends our partners in the Home Plate Project, including the dozens of players who are generously supporting the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Melanie LeGrande, MLB's vice president of social responsibility. “Childhood hunger is an often overlooked issue, and it is incredibly gratifying to see our baseball community once again rising to the occasion during this pandemic.”